Gazwareen: Unique Hand-Crafted Driftwood Furniture by Shahir Maged
Alia El Askalany
Gazwareen’s collection of driftwood furniture pieces are a new and innovative take on wood design and carpentry. Designed and conceptualised by Dr. Shahir Maged – an orthopaedic surgeon, avid kitesurfer and part-time disco funk DJ – Gazwareen is setting the bar high for local, eco-friendly furniture in Egypt.
“The brand is actually two years old, but my father and mentor taught me key skills when I was very young, springing from his passion for woodwork” Maged says.
“My first significant piece happened ten years ago, by pure coincidence. I wanted to make a small eating table to use while seated on the ground; I made it from random, old, irregular pieces of wood and it turned out to be a very funky piece. When a friend offered me a space in his exhibition and I managed to sell all the pieces, I decided to turn the hobby into a solid brand.”
The name of the brand is truly original and unique to Egypt; Gazwareen, or Casuarina in Latin, is the local name for a specific species of tree found all over the country. The brand name pays homage to this beautiful, undervalued tree species which is used in almost all of Maged’s projects. Characterised by its hard, durable consistency, Gazwareen is usually only used in Egypt for making charcoal for export.
For Maged, the design process is both the most fun and the most challenging. Driftwood is often found washed up on Egypt’s shores, as the remains of old ships during winter storms. As a material, driftwood boasts several practical attributes; it’s insect-resistant by nature and is one of the more readily-available durable woods.
The process of manufacturing itself also employs a degree of creativity and takes a lot longer than regular furniture; the wood is weathered by the elements which create an organic beauty, and there are almost no true straight lines that can be used for alignment. Parts must be assembled in steps, one by one, and in a specific order to make up for the uneven lines.
Over the past two years, Maged has used the wood itself as a source of inspiration, and has designed an array of furniture pieces including tables, benches, stools, cabinets, shelves, lighting fixtures and even baby shelving units. Considering the uniqueness of each process, every piece that that Maged produces has a story of its own, which is often retold to customers.
Showcasing his collection at exhibitions, galleries, art festivals and even at his own house in Alexandria, Maged has big plans for expanding into the regional market. In the future he hopes to ‘take designs to another level’ by combining ceramics, metals and animal bone into his work. He also hopes to collaborate with jewellery designers in the near future.
But more than just being a business, the Gazwareen brand aims to raise eco-awareness and offer an alternative to mass-produced furniture that has little personality or aura. Gazwareen uses traditional, eco-friendly methods rather than chemical-based materials, contributing to the new generation of artists, designers and craftsmen who are keen on producing naturally beautiful furniture whilst promoting environmentally friendly living.